Monday, April 30, 2012

Mona el Tahawy: The Islamist Spring and the War on Women

Ms. al Tahawy has composed a powerful and timely expose of the sorry state of women in the Arab world, even after the Arab Spring, which some people have started to call the Islamist Spring, and I find that new name much more accurate in hindsight. 

Al Tahawy has a fine, cutting style (and you know I like that). For instance, on Yemen:

It's easy to see why the lowest-ranked country is Yemen, where 55 percent of women are illiterate, 79 percent do not participate in the labor force, and just one woman serves in the 301-person parliament. Horrific news reports about 12-year-old girls dying in childbirth do little to stem the tide of child marriage there. Instead, demonstrations in support of child marriage outstrip those against it, fueled by clerical declarations that opponents of state-sanctioned pedophilia are apostates because the Prophet Mohammed, according to them, married his second wife, Aisha, when she was a child.

And a bit on female genital mutilation:

I could find you a host of crackpots sounding off on Woman the Insatiable Temptress, but I'm staying mainstream with Qaradawi, who commands a huge audience on and off the satellite channels. Although he says female genital mutilation (which he calls "circumcision," a common euphemism that tries to put the practice on a par with male circumcision) is not "obligatory," you will also find this priceless observation in one of his books: "I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world. Anyone who thinks that circumcision is the best way to protect his daughters should do it," he wrote, adding, "The moderate opinion is in favor of practicing circumcision to reduce temptation." So even among "moderates," girls' genitals are cut to ensure their desire is nipped in the bud -- pun fully intended. Qaradawi has since issued a fatwa against female genital mutilation, but it comes as no surprise that when Egypt banned the practice in 2008, some Muslim Brotherhood legislators opposed the law. And some still do -- including a prominent female parliamentarian, Azza al-Garf.

Anyway, do read the whole thing, and LIKE it on FB, and blog on it, and pass it on.

All of that having been said, Ms al Tahawy is, as you probably know, on the losing side of this battle. At the end of the day the practice of the Prophet himself was misogynistic and anti-woman. Not always, but more often than not. But still, good for her, though if she takes her fight for women to its logical conclusion it will mean leaving Islam.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

How would God curse someone?

Well, an entire chapter of the Qur'an is Allah cursing Muhammad's uncle (and his wife):

Surah Al-Masadd
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish. (1) His wealth and gains will not exempt him. (2) He will be plunged in flaming Fire, (3) And his wife, the wood-carrier, (4) Will have upon her neck a halter of palm-fibre. (5)

Since you were wondering, there you have it! Merciful and compassionate indeed :-)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Abu Daoud on Christ at the Checkpoint 2012

Christ at the Checkpoint was a conference in March of 2012 over in the (not) charming town of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. Yours truly was able to attend, as were folks from all around the Middle East. Well, not Libya--I didn't meet anyone from Libya there. But then again, there really aren't many Christians in Libya, are there?

But back to the point. You can check out the website here and let me tell you, those guys who put it together sure were sharp in terms of technology! So lots of stuff at the website. All in all this was a full, frontal assault on Christian Zionism and I must say that I--wait, if you want to know what I thought about it read the stinkin' article at St Francis Magazine.

Finally, I do want to note that I enjoyed my Palestinian sojourn. It's a land I had visited from time to time over the years, but had never really connected with people there like I did over that busy week in March.

Do let me know if you have any comments or questions. I do think the material presented there has the capacity to move evangelicals away from their Zionism, which had the Jerusalem rabbis shaking in their boots and writing articles.

Here is a section of the article:

In addition to the responsible handling of Scripture, there were some other great strengths, and they outweigh the complaints. Foremost among these is the emphasis on nonviolence, which Sami Awad emphasized, and which was the topic of his movie “Little Town of Bethlehem” (Hanon 2010). Also refreshing was the refusal of the Palestinian speakers to build their identity around victimization. Colin Chapman [the PDF has the wrong surname here, not sure why--AD] spoke on “radical” Islam, and in his own irenic manner helped address this difficult topic, but more on this later. Salim Munayer spoke passionately on communicating with Jews, and especially Messianic Jews. Salim and Colin did a good job arguing that we must get past labels and “othering” (though I hate to borrow such a trendy term from the whorehouse that is Western academia). I was waiting for someone to quote the great philosopher Wayne Campbell, who said, “If you label me, you deny me” (in Spheeris 1992, though some attribute this quote to the Danish Lutheran Soren Kierkegaard). These two factors—a clear renunciation of all violence and a refusal to be victims—stood out to me as great strengths of this local community of believers.

Read it all HERE.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Hadith on Moses and the Jews

Bukhari :: Book 3 :: Volume 31 :: Hadith 222
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:

The Prophet came to Medina and saw the Jews fasting on the day of Ashura. He asked them about that. They replied, "This is a good day, the day on which Allah rescued Bani Israel from their enemy. So, Moses fasted this day." The Prophet said, "We have more claim over Moses than you." So, the Prophet fasted on that day and ordered (the Muslims) to fast (on that day).

Movement in Kosovo from Islam to Catholic Christianity

When the Ottomans came into the Balkans they levied crushing taxes on non-Muslims there (the famous jizya), and as a consequence many of the men of the families 'converted' to Islam. Now that they have freedom to be Christians, scores of people and indeed whole families are officially joining the Catholic Church in Kosovo.

There is a great article on it here from the Economist, which is a trustworthy news source I think:

If Don Zefi has his way, there will be a lot more in future. On Christmas Eve some 38 people were baptised in a single town, Klina. Conversions to Christianity have become common (though a cautious Catholic church does not give precise figures). Don Zefi says he knows of large numbers more in “tens of villages” who want to convert. 

He dislikes the word, because many of them come from a crypto-Christian background. Their forefathers may have converted to Islam under Ottoman rule, but behind closed doors they kept their old Catholic practices. Jahja Drancolli, a historian, adds that “religion has always been secondary” to being Albanian. Converts, he says, “want to return to the old religion they believe they had” and to show that they are “part of the Euro-American trend.” For every convert, anecdotal evidence suggests more go to church or are interested in Christianity.

Read it all HERE.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Decline of the American Family

I don't normally post on cultural things going on in the USA or Europe, but this article seemed pretty important to me, because it strikes at the heart of what is wrong with the West, and why Western civilization will die (I think), and Islamic civilization will survive, and, to some extent, supplant Western civilization.

Of course then all those nice aspects of Western civilization which Muslims like so much will then fade away and be replaced by the nepotism and tribalism and stagnation and censorship which we find everywhere in the Muslim world today. What will not happen is a happy synthesis of the glory of Christendom and the culture of Islam. Never. Carthage becomes Tunis. Constantinople becomes Istanbul. Creativity, creation, art, critical discourse--all dry up as Islamization increases.

The West does not believe in the family any more. I learned from my old Catholic prof. Fr John long ago that the State and the Church are only as healthy as the nuclear families. And this article shows the continuing decline of nuclear families in the USA. It is sad to read about it, but it is the reality.

Muslims still get married. They still have kids. Yes, the families are often unhappy. Yes, women are abused. Yes, men are unfaithful. But is the American model really better? American women alone? Raising kids without fathers?

Read about it here: The Coming Cultural Disintegration, by William Tucker.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Another convert from Islam to Roman Catholic Christianity

Always warms my heart to hear of a Muslim converting to Roman Catholicism. I think the Latin Church (as we call it here) has a lot to offer to the Church's mission to Islam, but on the whole it is rather inert and inactive. I even wrote a letter to the Pope telling him to get his bishops in order, but I'm almost certain he's never read it and would be surprised if any bishop anywhere has. Oh well.

So while this interview is pretty crap--I mean the interview asks all sorts of leading questions, which you're not supposed to do in interviews. Still there are some fine sections and insights. Read it all, but for now here is a section on aesthetics and conversion:

Was it the beauty of the Pietà that struck you?
Yes — and the context. This is God, I thought. This really is God. You must remember that one of the big things when we look at traditional Islam is the heresy — in their opinion — of equating the mortal Jesus with God. And if there is ever an obstacle that a Muslim convert has to contend with, intellectually and emotionally, more than anything else, that is it. At that moment, in front of the Pietà, I realized, through sheer emotion, that the truth of our religion is so simple and so direct.

PS: A recent issue of Global Missiology also has an article on aesthetics and conversion, for those interested in the rather esoteric topic.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Updike's Seven Stanzas at Easter

I post this most every Easter, and never get tired of reading it...We'll go with the Latin Easter date for you all who live in the West.

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
—John Updike, “Seven Stanzas At Easter,” 1964

Friday, April 06, 2012

Mission ad gentes, frontier missions, and church planting

The mission ad gentes has this objective: to found Christian communities and develop churches to their full maturity. This is a central and determining goal of missionary activity, so much so that the mission is not completed until it succeeds in building a new particular church which functions normally in its local setting.

Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, §48

Sometimes evangelicals and Catholics have a hard time understanding each other. One example of this is that in Catholic thought mission to the totally unevangelized, where there is no church at all, is called mission 'ad gentes', which is Latin for 'to the nations' more or less. Evangelicals don't use Latin (and don't know it usually), but they use a very American image for this same endeavor: frontier mission. This word is present even in the name of missionary agencies like Frontiers (a major player) and Anglican Frontier Missions (a minor player).

What I like about this quote above is that it ties in frontier mission to planting churches, and not ust making a handful of converts here or there. I believe that the truth announced in this section of Redemptoris Missio is agreeable to both Catholics and evangelicals. If anything is sad, it is that both Catholics and evangelicals invest far too little in this essential missionary endeavor.

What do you think? Is your church active in frontier mission 'ad gentes'? How so?